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The week in art news – Claes Oldenburg (1929–2022)

22 July 2022

The Swedish-American artist Claes Oldenburg has died at the age of 93 at his home in New York. He studied at Yale University and worked as a cub reporter in Chicago after graduating. His move to New York in 1956 saw the beginning of a career that spanned more than six decades. In 1961, Oldenburg opened The Store: a recreation of local shops full of goods replicated in plaster. Oldenburg brought a new dimension to the idea of sculpture with the introduction of his ‘soft’ works, formed from vinyl, such as Floor Burger (1962). However, he is perhaps best-known for his supersized outdoor public monuments, often created with his second wife and long-time collaborator Coosje van Bruggen. There are more than 40 around the world, from his first, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, installed at Yale University in 1969, to one of his most recognised works: Clothespin (1976), a 45ft-high steel clothes peg outside Philadelphia’s City Hall.

Sabine Schormann has resigned as director general of Documenta amid an ongoing row over anti-Semitic work on show at the fair, which opened in its 15th edition in Kassel last month. According to a statement released by the exhibition’s parent company, the decision was a mutual agreement between the board and Schormann, who had served in her role since 2018. With Documenta set to run until 25 September, the search is underway for an interim director, the board has confirmed.

Italian authorities have put a stop to the sale of work suspected to be by Artemisia Gentileschi in Vienna this week.  The Carabinieri’s art-crime unit allege that the two sellers of the painting Caritas Romana fraudulently attributed the work to an anonymous follower of Artemisia in order to gain an export licence from the Italian culture ministry.

Meanwhile in New York, the District Attorney’s office returned some 142 antiquities worth $14m to Italy. The New York Times reports that the ceremony took place on Wednesday in the presence of the Italian consul-general. The pieces include 48 from the collection of Michael H. Steinhardt, who surrendered objects worth $70m in December 2021 – many found to be trafficked – and is barred from buying antiquities ever again. Among the artefacts being returned is the Ercolano fresco, which was stolen from Herculaneum.

Alistair Hudson has been appointed the new artistic-scientific director of the prestigious Zentrums für Kunst und Medien in Karlsruhe, Germany. Hudson, who will take up his post in April 2023, is currently director of the Whitworth Art Gallery at the University of Manchester, where the removal and reinstatement of a work by Forensic Architecture from an exhibition in July 2021 has been the subject of controversy. He takes over from Peter Weibel, who has led the institution since 1999. Hudson said in a statement, ‘It is a real honour to be able to take on this role at ZKM, which has established itself as one of the principle cultural institutions in the world right now.’

Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery (TPG) in London, is to leave the institution after 16 years at the helm. Last year TPG, which was founded by Sue Davies in 1971 as the first public gallery dedicated to photography, celebrated its 50th anniversary. During Rogers’ time in post, the gallery moved from Great Newport Street to its new purpose-built space on Ramillies Street designed by the architects O’Donnell and Tuomey and became the home of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize. It has also staged solo exhibitions by photographers such as Edward Burtynsky, Helen Levitt and Sunil Gupta. The board of trustees is looking to appoint Rogers’ successor by the end of the year.